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Author Topic: Code/No Code CW-Do we need it?  (Read 85896 times)
KB1SF
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« Reply #150 on: June 07, 2011, 08:24:58 PM »

When I got my Extra in 1970 at the age of 16, there were only a few thousand of us with that license. Less than 2% of US hams were Extras in those days. Now, the percentage is closing in on 18% - and rising. Soon there will be more than 700,000 of us.

It's all good.  

Perhaps.

But an awful lot can happen in 10 years.  

And since what you and I are BOTH discussing here is speculation and projections based on past history, only time will tell what the future actually holds for our Service.

As I've said, the one "unknown unknown" in all of this is the impact our now rapidly aging (and dying) ham population will have on our Service.  And while I'll readily admit the imminent demise of ham radio has been predicted over and over (and over again) in the past, the difference this time is that we've never had to account for the fact that the average amateur in our Service is pushing 60 and may even be well North of that number by now.  

The truth is that our hobby simply isn't attracting today's youth in the same numbers that it was when you and I first got our licenses.  And it's those people who now make up the bulk of the population of the hobby.  Clearly, as our generation continues to age and die without also being replaced by youthful "new blood" it will most certainly impact our continuing ability to hang onto our frequencies going forward.  Just how much of an impact that changing demographic will have over time (and when) remains to be seen.  

Unfortunately, when the bureaucrats and politicians who decide such things ultimately decide who gets what access to which parts of the radio spectrum, "quantity" has a "quality" all its own.  And without continued access to our frequencies, the hobby dies.  It's that simple.

So, once again, Jim, I suggest you and I make a date to meet here in 10-15 year's time and see who got it right.  In the meantime, I have absolutely NO intention of playing any more of your silly little "line by line" question games.  

I simply wanted the other readers of this forum to have some other considerations to "chew on" in this discussion that seem to have now gotten lost in all of your cheering.

73,

Keith
KB1SF / VA3KSF
« Last Edit: June 07, 2011, 08:47:01 PM by KB1SF » Logged
N2EY
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« Reply #151 on: June 08, 2011, 03:24:31 AM »

Code/No Code = Dead Issue

Yes, the test is a dead issue. Gone and not coming back. However, the discussion in this thread is now about growth or its lack.

Latest total from ARRL: 698,582

73 de Jim, N2EY
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N2EY
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« Reply #152 on: June 08, 2011, 05:34:40 AM »

When I got my Extra in 1970 at the age of 16, there were only a few thousand of us with that license. Less than 2% of US hams were Extras in those days. Now, the percentage is closing in on 18% - and rising. Soon there will be more than 700,000 of us.

It's all good.  

Perhaps.

But an awful lot can happen in 10 years.  

It's been more than 40 years since I got the Extra, and more than 43 years since I became a ham. And there have always been the doomsayers who proclaimed that ham radio was dying, and that in 10-20 years it would simply disappear.

The supposed causes changed, but the predictions stayed the same. In the 1960s it was "incentive licensing". In the 1970s it was cb. In the 1980s it was Japanese rigs and computers. In the 1990s it was cell phones and the internet. And lots of other things.

And yet doomsday never came. But just like that preacher who said the end was coming May 21 (or whenever), the predictions of the end don't end.

This doesn't mean we don't have issues or that we can't do more to publicize amateur radio and attract new people. But it does mean we're not on a sinking ship.

And since what you and I are BOTH discussing here is speculation and projections based on past history, only time will tell what the future actually holds for our Service.

As I've said, the one "unknown unknown" in all of this is the impact our now rapidly aging (and dying) ham population will have on our Service.  And while I'll readily admit the imminent demise of ham radio has been predicted over and over (and over again) in the past, the difference this time is that we've never had to account for the fact that the average amateur in our Service is pushing 60 and may even be well North of that number by now.

Nobody knows what "the average age" of a US radio amateur is today. The FCC hasn't collected birthdate data for years. Not only don't we know the "average age", we don't know the trend. Nor do we really know what the "average age" was in the past.   

However, what we DO know is this:

The median age of the US population is rising. This is due to several factors: More people living longer, people having fewer kids and having them later in life, and the aging of the "baby boomers". Last time I looked, the median age of the US population was in the late 30s, and the life expectancy of Americans was in the high 70s.

While there are notable exceptions, very few people under 12 get amateur licenses. So the median age of the amateur population should be at least 12 years older than that of the US population.  Which works out to be somewhere around 50.


The truth is that our hobby simply isn't attracting today's youth in the same numbers that it was when you and I first got our licenses.  And it's those people who now make up the bulk of the population of the hobby.  Clearly, as our generation continues to age and die without also being replaced by youthful "new blood" it will most certainly impact our continuing ability to hang onto our frequencies going forward.  Just how much of an impact that changing demographic will have over time (and when) remains to be seen.

The main point, however, is that our numbers are growing, and have been for several years, despite the drop-outs and die-offs.

Historically, amateur radio has gone through a number of different demographic profiles. Prior to 1951, there were actually very few teenage hams; the typical newcomer was in his/her 20s or older. The creation of the Novice in 1951, coupled with inexpensive WW2 surplus, kits, post-war prosperity and mass migration to the suburbs led to a dramatic increase in the number of newcomers in their teens. The Novice was a big hit from the beginning, bringing in large numbers of new hams for 30+ years. Most of those Novices went on to upgrade to General, as well. They didn't let a couple of tests stop them.

The reasons we have fewer teenage newcomers nowadays have nothing to do with testing. They are the result of other factors, such as equipment cost, antenna constraints, and lack of publicity.

73 de Jim, N2EY



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KB1SF
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« Reply #153 on: June 08, 2011, 09:16:28 AM »

This doesn't mean we don't have issues or that we can't do more to publicize amateur radio and attract new people. But it does mean we're not on a sinking ship.

....in your opinion.

I see a very different picture.  Our "ship" is not just sinking, Jim, it's now aging and (quite literally) DYING from lack of new, youthful participation.

But, as I've said in numerous other posts in various forums, the collective seeds of our demise were sown long before you and I got our licenses.  So, in that sense, it's only a matter of time now before our numbers really start to "tank" and our ability to hang onto our frequencies becomes increasingly more difficult, if not impossible.

That all may not happen this week, next week, next month, or even next year.  But that day IS most assuredly coming.

Keith
KB1SF /  VA3KSF
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« Reply #154 on: June 08, 2011, 04:06:38 PM »

Ham radio dying is not the end of the world. and I doubt it will die, untill like a nookular war happens or somesuch. Most kids today in the US care very little for beeping and static, video games and texting are far more popular than beeping and static. If the kids aren't interested in amateur radio, I don't care. If they don't like it, why try to force them to? Why should we promote ham radio at all? Why not simply enjoy ham radio? Better to just get on the air and not worry about the death of ham radio, as if you would ever stop it. Besides, what if the 700k we have right now all got on the air at the same time?
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KB1SF
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« Reply #155 on: June 08, 2011, 05:05:31 PM »

Ham radio dying is not the end of the world. and I doubt it will die, untill like a nookular war happens or somesuch. Most kids today in the US care very little for beeping and static, video games and texting are far more popular than beeping and static. If the kids aren't interested in amateur radio, I don't care. If they don't like it, why try to force them to? Why should we promote ham radio at all? Why not simply enjoy ham radio? Better to just get on the air and not worry about the death of ham radio, as if you would ever stop it. Besides, what if the 700k we have right now all got on the air at the same time?

Sometimes, I'm absolutely amazed at how totally oblivious many hams are to the political and regulatory realities of the world around us.  

Indeed, some of us here STILL seem to arrogantly believe that we live in this little "spectrum bubble" and that our politicians and regulators are forever obligated to provide us frequency spectrum to play in "just because" we're somehow entitled to it.  

Absolutely nothing could be farther from the truth.

I think the words posted on the Radio of Canada's Web site sums this issue up best when they note that, "Amateur Radio exists as a frequency spectrum user because it qualifies as a Service. Its continued existence depends to a great degree not on the service it has performed in the past, or on its simple potential for service, but on what service it is performing now and will continue to perform in the future."

That is, unlike a lot of other hobbies like photography, fishing, collecting old stamps or automobiles, our ham radio hobby ALSO relies almost exclusively on our continued, fee-free access to an ever-more-scarce, shared finite resource called the radio spectrum.  

And, both by the laws of physics as well as by national and international laws and agreements as to how that spectrum is to be allocated and used, that resource has to be shared with not only well-heeled commercial interests, but also by government and military users as well.  ALL of these users (including us) are in constant competition for a bigger slice of the "pie", or failing that, to simply hold on to the access that each of us now has.

This, in turn, means that we have to continually justify our existence to these politicians and regulators.  Unfortunately, a lot of that justification depends on how many of us are not just licensed, but are actually using the spectrum space allocated to our Service.  As I said, when it comes to allocating scarce radio spectrum, "quantity" takes on a "quality" all its own.

It will be interesting to see just how much our rate of growth has slacked off this year (2011) as compared to last year (2010) and the year before that (2009). According to the latest published reports by the ARRL VEC, the largest influx of new hams in the United States in recent memory occurred in 2009.  However, our rate of growth in the United States since that time has started to once again go negative.  And God only knows how many more of us still have licenses but haven't transmitted on the ham bands in a dog's age!

What's more, if all we are now attracting are aging "oldsters"...those persons who "always wanted to be a ham", or were hams at one time who let their licenses lapse, or were waiting for the Morse testing requirement to go away...sooner or later we are eventually going to run out of  people in that demographic to replenish those of us who are now dying in ever-increasing numbers.  

Indeed, that's exactly what the ARRL's "newly licensed ham" demographics seem to now indicate.  The "pent up demand" for new licenses now that the Morse testing nonsense has gone away has largely cleared and our "newly licensed ham" numbers are, once again, on their way back down again.  

If that trend continues, at some point, the number of users in our Service will become so small that we will be unable to justify our continued access to our frequencies.  And once we loose access to our frequencies for lack of use, all these silly arguments over whether (or not) we should be tested for Morse or that only those who construct their equipment from scratch are "real hams" will all become quite moot.

By then, I predict our precious frequencies will have been taken away from us and given over to someone else.  And, without access to our frequencies, our hobby dies.

Now, I certainly hope I'm dead wrong in all of these predictions.  However, unless these trends quickly reverse themselves and we start attracting (and keeping) far greater numbers of youthful newcomers to replace those of us who are now aging and dying in ever-increasing numbers, my fear is that my predictions are probably going to be proven right.

But, like I said, only time will tell.

73,

Keith
KB1SF / VA3KSF
« Last Edit: June 08, 2011, 06:23:20 PM by KB1SF » Logged
N0SYA
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« Reply #156 on: June 08, 2011, 08:12:21 PM »

The kids aren't going to save ham radio from politicians. Look at the loss of parts of 220 that mostly go unused by those who stole it from us. Kids didn't rescue us there either. If they (politicians and those who own them) really want the spectrum that bad they will just say we can't be trusted to tx anymore as we might be in contact with "terrorists" or some other fabrication they deem usefull. Or they will come out and say that ham tx are harmfull to the environment. I mean, they (judges and those who own them) just deleted the 4th ammendment to the constitution and you are hoping kids will save ham radio. Either way, I'm not concerned. But you can go and beat the drums of ham radio with my approval, and, oddly enough, best regards.
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N2EY
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« Reply #157 on: June 09, 2011, 03:37:59 AM »

The kids aren't going to save ham radio from politicians. Look at the loss of parts of 220 that mostly go unused by those who stole it from us. Kids didn't rescue us there either. If they (politicians and those who own them) really want the spectrum that bad they will just say we can't be trusted to tx anymore...

Exactly!

But there's more to it. And they're taking a different road.

First, many of our bands are protected by treaty. One big reason we lost 220-222 is that it's not protected by treaty.

Second, nobody else really wants our HF/MF bands. HF is old technology, narrow band and unreliable. A backup at best. Note that even SWBC is dying out. The spectrum wanted by the commercial and government folks is all VHF/UHF.

Third, what really matters is how many *active* hams we have on the air - and what they do on the air.

Fourth, the real threat to ham radio isn't number of hams. It's things like antenna restrictions, BPL, RFI, overly-complicated gear and other stuff that makes it too difficult to get on the air effectively.

When I got started in ham radio, I built a simple receiver and strung a wire out to the apple tree in the back yard. Inexpensive, quick and simple. Not much but it worked, and got me started. How many young people today live in places where they could do that?

73 de Jim, N2EY

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KB1SF
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« Reply #158 on: June 09, 2011, 06:08:32 AM »

Second, nobody else really wants our HF/MF bands. HF is old technology, narrow band and unreliable. A backup at best. Note that even SWBC is dying out. The spectrum wanted by the commercial and government folks is all VHF/UHF.

.....Today.

But what about the future?

Perhaps you and others have forgotten that in the early days of our Service, we hams were "banished" to those "worthless" frequencies below 200 meters.  Over time, we (and others) discovered that those "worthless" frequencies weren't so "worthless" after all.  Once that happened, we had to justify our existence before the US Congress and the military...BIG TIME. Few modern-day hams fully realize how very close we came back then to not having an Amateur Radio Service....at all.

So, while I certainly agree that, "nobody else really wants our HF/MF bands",  I would also add "TODAY" to that phrase. Who knows what yet-to-be-invented communication technologies of the future may once again make our HF frequencies a veritable gold mine and therefore ripe for commercial exploitation down the road?

Quote
The real threat to ham radio isn't number of hams. It's things like antenna restrictions, BPL, RFI, overly-complicated gear and other stuff that makes it too difficult to get on the air effectively.

Horsepucky!

There are any number of ways for hams to pursue the hobby these days in spite of all of these restrictions.  

Clearly, you haven't bothered to keep up-to-date with the whole plethora of magazine columns and other published works regarding the innumerable ways today's hams can operate from tight, deed-restricted spaces.  That is, of course, unless you are one of those people who remain totally wedded to operating old "boat anchors" (you know, all that ancient AM stuff that glows in the dark and that people get a hernia from just trying to pick up)!

The truth is that our modern day HF and VHF/UHF ham equipment has now gotten so lightweight and compact that a whole ham station easily fits into a small suitcase.  Most of it can operate for several hours off of a 12V battery and it can be set up almost anywhere.  

For example, just last weekend, I set my Yaesu FT-857 up on a picnic table in a local park, threw a G5RV dipole antenna over a tree, ran the whole thing off a 12V car charger and had a ball working not only all over North America, but well into Europe and South America as well.

Keith
KB1SF / VA3KSF
« Last Edit: June 09, 2011, 08:14:31 AM by KB1SF » Logged
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« Reply #159 on: June 09, 2011, 06:48:42 AM »

The kids aren't going to save ham radio from politicians. Look at the loss of parts of 220 that mostly go unused by those who stole it from us. Kids didn't rescue us there either. If they (politicians and those who own them) really want the spectrum that bad they will just say we can't be trusted to tx anymore...

Exactly!

But there's more to it. And they're taking a different road.

First, many of our bands are protected by treaty. One big reason we lost 220-222 is that it's not protected by treaty.

Second, nobody else really wants our HF/MF bands. HF is old technology, narrow band and unreliable. A backup at best. Note that even SWBC is dying out. The spectrum wanted by the commercial and government folks is all VHF/UHF.

Third, what really matters is how many *active* hams we have on the air - and what they do on the air.

Fourth, the real threat to ham radio isn't number of hams. It's things like antenna restrictions, BPL, RFI, overly-complicated gear and other stuff that makes it too difficult to get on the air effectively.

When I got started in ham radio, I built a simple receiver and strung a wire out to the apple tree in the back yard. Inexpensive, quick and simple. Not much but it worked, and got me started. How many young people today live in places where they could do that?

73 de Jim, N2EY



Yep, the commercial interests who buy politicians want v/uhf for one reason: bandwidth. Hf (fortunately) doesn't have the bw they need to be able to sell their services to the kids who don't care for beeping and static. Surely there are at least some kids who might be interested in beeping and static, but not many. They are truly elites in their time.

"What's that thing?"
"oh this? Just my ham radio... I can talk all over the wor..."
"People still do that?!?"
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AA4PB
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« Reply #160 on: June 09, 2011, 08:17:49 AM »

The whole HF spectrum contains just 30MHz of bandwidth. For comparison, just one microwave transmission can easily consume 30MHz of bandwidth.

The VHF/UHF spectrum contains 2970MHz of bandwidth.

If you were needing bandwidth for your consumer product, where would you look?  Huh

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Bob  AA4PB
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« Reply #161 on: June 09, 2011, 09:42:11 AM »

I just had a thought; pretty soon we're going to run out of Social Security recipients!!! Look at how OOOLD they all are!!! Heck, I'll bet most of them are over 62!!!
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N2EY
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« Reply #162 on: June 09, 2011, 11:24:04 AM »

Perhaps you and others have forgotten that in the early days of our Service, we hams were "banished" to those "worthless" frequencies below 200 meters.  Over time, we (and others) discovered that those "worthless" frequencies weren't so "worthless" after all.  Once that happened, we had to justify our existence before the US Congress and the military...BIG TIME. Few modern-day hams fully realize how very close we came back then to not having an Amateur Radio Service....at all.

You're actually conflating a couple of events.

Amateurs were banished to 200 Meters And Down in 1912, as part of universal mandatory licensing of transmitting stations and other regulations imposed in the wake of the Titanic disaster.

The big threats to our existence came after WW1. First, there was strong opposition to reopening the spectrum after Armistice Day. This threat was at the national level. In the 1920s, there were several international radio conferences where there were strong attempts to legislate us out of existence by treaty, or to so restrict us as to make amateur radio impractical.

In both cases it was the ARRL who led the fight against those threats, and ultimately won.

So, while I certainly agree that, "nobody else really wants our HF/MF bands",  I would also add "TODAY" to that phrase. Who knows what yet-to-be-invented communication technologies of the future may once again make our HF frequencies a veritable gold mine and therefore ripe for commercial exploitation down the road?

You forget that radio was in its infancy in 1912 and the 1920s. HF was considered worthless then because long-distance propagation by ionospheric refraction hadn't been discovered yet, because the available technologies couldn't use the short-waves efficiently, and because the main commercial use of radio then was for long-distance communication where wires weren't practical.

That's all changed now. The main commercial uses of radio now are for short-range mobile/portable/cordless communications and satellites. HF isn't suited for either; it's a back-up at best. The bandwidth is too small and the antennas are too big. VHF/UHF is the hot property.

The real threat to ham radio isn't number of hams. It's things like antenna restrictions, BPL, RFI, overly-complicated gear and other stuff that makes it too difficult to get on the air effectively.

Horsepucky!

There are any number of ways for hams to pursue the hobby these days in spite of all of these restrictions.  

Clearly, you haven't bothered to keep up-to-date with the whole plethora of magazine columns and other published works regarding the innumerable ways today's hams can operate from tight, deed-restricted spaces.  That is, of course, unless you are one of those people who remain totally wedded to operating old "boat anchors" (you know, all that ancient AM stuff that glows in the dark and that people get a hernia from just trying to pick up)!

The truth is that our modern day HF and VHF/UHF ham equipment has now gotten so lightweight and compact that a whole ham station easily fits into a small suitcase.  Most of it can operate for several hours off of a 12V battery and it can be set up almost anywhere.  

For example, just last weekend, I set my Yaesu FT-857 up on a picnic table in a local park, threw a G5RV dipole antenna over a tree, ran the whole thing off a 12V car charger and had a ball working not only all over North America, but well into Europe and South America as well.

It's not about the size and weight of the equipment. I've operated portable with WW2 surplus ARC-5 equipment, no big deal.

The problem is the antennas and the cost/complexity of the equipment.

Your operation from the park required a manufactured rig costing maybe $1000, an antenna, feedline and ropes, a car and its electrical system, a park and a nice day. Just to make some QSOs.

How many young people today have all those resources? Particularly those who are under the age of 16 or so? How many will invest all that money into something they can only use a few hours a month at most, and which requires all kinds of setup?



73 de Jim, N2EY
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N2EY
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« Reply #163 on: June 10, 2011, 01:59:13 AM »

It will be interesting to see just how much our rate of growth has slacked off this year (2011) as compared to last year (2010) and the year before that (2009). According to the latest published reports by the ARRL VEC, the largest influx of new hams in the United States in recent memory occurred in 2009.  However, our rate of growth in the United States since that time has started to once again go negative.

Let's take a look at the numbers:

From ARRL:

Feb 22, 2007: 654,680
Feb 26, 2008: 656,578 +1,892
Feb 22, 2009: 664,841 +8,263
May 8 2010: 690,552 +25,711
Mar 19 2011: 697,118 +6,566

73 de jim, N2EY
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KB1SF
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« Reply #164 on: June 10, 2011, 05:31:18 AM »

The problem is the antennas and the cost/complexity of the equipment.

Yet MORE horsepucky!

While most of the time I operate with a wire antenna thrown over at tree, I've also operated portable with a pair of used Hustler mobile antennas arranged as a dipole, all mounted on a TV tripod and a few sections of Radio Shack TV mast.

And when inflation is taken into account, the cost/performance ratio of our equipment today is FAR cheaper than at any time in our history, except perhaps when we hams mounted our spark circuits on pieces of wood.  

Go do the math.

Quote
Your operation from the park required a manufactured rig costing maybe $1000, an antenna, feedline and ropes, a car and its electrical system, a park and a nice day. Just to make some QSOs.

The cost of my equipment...all of it...is significantly less than $500.  And I run it off an an old, used car charger, not the car battery.  

What's more, how many times have you gone fishing in the rain?  Or gone skiing in a blizzard?  Or gone sailing in a hurricane?  All of those other hobbies require reasonably fair weather to pursue.  The truth is, just as with all hobbies, where there's a will, there's a way.

Quote
How many young people today have all those resources? Particularly those who are under the age of 16 or so? How many will invest all that money into something they can only use a few hours a month at most, and which requires all kinds of setup?

A lot more than you'd think.  Young people today think nothing of paying $150 for a pair of Nike shoes, or $700 to $800 for a laptop computer.

And I personally know of a whole group of people in the Detroit area who use their equipment "only a few hours a month". They routinely get together on weekends, seek out a park in town or in the suburbs, put up their portable stations, talk to the world and have a ball.  For them, every fair weather weekend in the summertime is "Field Day".

Once again, as with most of your other posts, you offer newcomers (and potential newcomers) to our hobby nothing but horrifically rigid, 1950s-era, "that's the way we've always done it and that's the way it must continue to be" thinking.

As Robert F. Kennedy once said, "Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies."

Keith
KB1SF / VA3KSF
« Last Edit: June 10, 2011, 05:37:10 AM by KB1SF » Logged
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